Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Overextended is Overused

Seth Godin is one of my favorite writers.  I read his blogs and books as soon as I can get my hands on them.  Shucks, I’d read his grocery list if he’d just put it out there!  One of his more recent blogs is entitled, “Underextended.”   Check out just a lines of his genius.

There is a lot of fear associated with ‘overextended.’

Take too much financial risk, expose yourself to the vagaries of the market and you’ll end up stressed, bankrupt and overextended.

Stretch your knee too much in the wrong direction after a long swim and the doctor will tell you that the ligaments are overextended.

Brands that get greedy and put their names in too many places in too many ways (as Tiffany’s did a generation ago) get overextended and take a long time to heal.

But what about the more prevalent, more insidious and ultimately more damaging notion of being underextended?”

I’m so glad Seth asked that question.  The notion of possibly becoming overextended is a whine I’ve heard many times in both my personal and professional life— and most every time I DO hear it?  I want to hurl!  {And no, I’m not talking baseball.}

Sure, there IS a need for balance. 

A balance between family and career. 

A balance between enough risk and too much risk. 

A balance between gathering information and making a decision.

But I’m not interested in appealing to the need for balance.  Not in this post.  I’m interested in pressing you to become a person who is willing to give everything you’ve got in pursuit of a worthy cause.

Far too many of us offer lame excuses for a half-hearted effort.  We want to protect our time and energies and place self-imposed limits on our involvement— but to what end?  So we can spend more time stalking old heartthrobs on Facebook? 

We resist volunteering because we figure once we start serving, they’ll never let us stop. 

We submit an adequate version when, had we only pushed another 10%— “adequate” could have become “amazing.”

It’s almost as though our greatest fear is not failure, but exhaustion! 

Now I get it:  Over-the-top effort is rarely noticed by others; even less often compensated.  And sometimes the truly high-flyers aren’t the most deserving of that lofty place they enjoy.  Effort doesn’t necessarily result in impact.

But here’s what I’ve experienced:  There is no exhaustion quite like the exhaustion that comes from giving your best— maybe even all you’ve got— even if no one ever knows or cares or applauds. 

Several years ago, I had already preached five services at the church I was serving— only to face two demanding musical performances later that evening.  Near the end of the second of the two, my body said, “Enough!”  I became faint and extremely dizzy.  Someone ran to grab food and water.  A few, including some in my family, scolded me.  They told me that if I stayed for my final number— they were NOT gonna be happy with me. 

But see, I have never been afraid of overextension.  So I went on despite my physical exhaustion.  And the final song of my way-too-long day?  Wow!  What an amazing experience!  From the opening bars of that anthem until its final triumphant note, I was keenly aware that my Father was holding me and empowering me!  And when the curtain closed, I was totally overcome with emotion. 

Do you know why? 

Because I had emptied myself— fully.  I had not another ounce of gas left in my tank.  I had given everything I had in service.  And I felt a joy that I can’t even begin to explain! 

I felt that same joy when I happily focused all of my energies and passions on Cindy.  During those many months of treatments and surgeries, I was fully engaged.  Despite the countless doctors appointments and treatments she had, I missed only one chemo session during those fourteen desperately long months.  There were times when I was so tired, I had no clue how I could keep up the pace.  There were other times when Cindy pled with me to ask someone else to carry the load.  She even got miffed at me when I refused. 

And no, I wasn’t trying to be a hero.  But neither was I afraid of over-extending myself.  I was fully engaged, that’s all.  And when you are fully engaged, you don’t keep an eye on the clock.  You don’t pout about more time for “my stuff.”  You don’t offer less than your best.  You don’t expect any sort of payback for your effort.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a payback.

When Cindy died, I couldn’t imagine doing life without her.  Yet nearly 14 months later, I AM doing life.  And more than just DOING life, I am passionately extending myself…all over again!  Happily so! 

Here’s why:  Because I have no regrets.  There’s not one ounce of me that wishes I had done something better or had NOT done something I wish I hadn’t done.  I emptied myself in service to my wife.  I gave all I had…fully…to her.  ALL of me was given. 

And that’s why today, I can still know joy.  The joy that comes from overextending yourself with nothing held back. 

Remember the woman who poured out her jar of perfume in an outlandish expression of love for Jesus?  It was all she had, yet it was nothing less than “all” that she was willing to give.  Most everybody who witnessed her extravagant deed that day disapproved. 

But not Jesus.  He called her act of over-extension, “Beautiful.”

That’s one reason I can’t ever see myself retiring.  Because I don’t want to die with anything left in my tank.

That’s why I can’t dip into the well and grab some sermon I wrote 20 years ago.  Because I’m still learning and growing and I don’t want one ounce of my life experience to go to waste.

That’s why every note I sing still starts at my toenails and gathers a head of steam as it blisters through my heart and then belches out my mouth!  Sure, the sounds I make may not be as pleasing as the sounds I used to make— but the heart…?  The passion…?  The whole-hearted investment…?  It’s all…or it’s nothing, baby.

The world doesn’t need you to protect yourself.  The world needs you to overextend yourself. 

So give it a try.  Stop playing it safe.  Put it out there. 

If you do, I promise you:  The exhaustion that comes from your whole-hearted, nothing-held-back effort?  Will be the best “empty” feeling you have ever had.  

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